Just Vibrations: The Purpose of Sounding Good

MONOGRAPH (university of Michigan press, 2016)



Just Vibrations bends our collective ears toward the vitality and precarity of optimism, dependence, and reparative agendas in academia and in daily life. Cheng calls for a radical embrace of interpersonal care as a core—as opposed to extracurricular—component of intellectual labor. In the event we break, who will rush to criticize and who will stop to offer aid? Should our voices crack, who may take pains to listen all the more closely? Traversing the resonant archives of reindeer games, personal impairment, scholarly strife, queer hope, and accessible soundscapes, this book advocates for care work as a barometer of better worlds.

Foreword by Susan McClary

Cover art by Jess Landau



Just Vibrations is an extremely interesting book written by an exceptionally talented musician. The reflections are far-reaching and a source of much illumination about the function and value of work, hope, determination, realism, and interpersonal care. It is hard to write such a book, but it is very rewarding to read. — AMARTYA SEN (Harvard University), Nobel Laureate in Economics and author of The Idea of Justice

Just Vibrations is about unrelenting illness and accommodation to it; about music, politics, and theory, and the thereness of the opportunity they offer to repair diverse kinds of pain. It's a book of queer struggle, attachment, thought, and love, its face bent toward the sun—and the question mark.LAUREN BERLANT (University of Chicago), author of Cruel Optimism

Just Vibrations is a passionate and personal plea for a reparative musicology, for a field that favors empathy, compassion, and care. Cheng made me think in deep and not always comfortable ways about my work and my life as a scholar. A beautiful and moving book.JOSEPH STRAUS (CUNY Graduate Center), author of Extraordinary Measures: Disability in Music

Just Vibrations is without question a groundbreaking book, both accessible to a wide readership (including undergraduate students) and theoretically nuanced. Cheng elegantly balances clarity of explanation with scholarly depth and breadth. All this is accomplished through a writing style that is eminently readable, even poetic at times.ANDREW DELL'ANTONIO (University of Texas at Austin), author of Listening as Spiritual Practice in Early Modern Italy


Note on Open Access

Just Vibrations has been published in both print and Open Access. The goal of digital OA is to reach as many readers as possible, especially those who might otherwise be unable to afford or access this text. By harmonizing the book’s medium and message (of care, outreach, accessibility), OA offers an electronic file that accommodates convenient text searches, text-to-voice dictation, and transportability via e-readers. For readers with additional visual needs, Alt-Text is available in the digital version for all illustrations in this book. Print copies of the book can be purchased via University of Michigan Press, Amazon, and other sellers.